Zaheer: 'I am open to different roles'

"I am more focused on what I’ve on my plate right now. I am looking to play the next season of IPL. But I am open to different roles. When the opportunity comes, I will think about it," Zaheer Khan said.

Cricketers Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan and Mohammad Azharuddin during the launch of TNPL team Chepauk Super Gillies, in Chennai on Sunday.   -  M. Karunakaran

Batsmen, especially in Tests, were wary of Zaheer Khan. He wasn’t ferocious like Brett Lee or Shoaib Akhtar. He didn’t demolish batting line-ups like the West Indian attack of the 1970s. He wasn’t profusely talented like Waqar Younis or Wasim Akram. But Zaheer would lay a noose and lure the batsmen towards it. And when they least expected it, he snared them.

The void he created in the Indian bowling attack, when he retired from international cricket in 2015, is yet to be filled.

The 35-year-old, who still plays the Indian Premier League (IPL), was in the city for the launch of the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) team, Chepauk Super Gillies (CSG). He spoke to the media on the sidelines of the event. Excerpts:

What do you think about TNPL?

A lot of leagues are happening on the domestic circuit. It’s a good platform for youngsters to showcase their talent. And, talent scouts will be keeping an eye on them. Growing up in Mumbai, I remember playing in small-level tournaments. It was a good platform for me because I think match practice is the best practice.

Mohammad Shami has been bowling well in the West Indies Test series after coming back from an injury. Do you think he should be preserved for Tests by making him play less limited overs matches?

It’s always good to play more and more matches. Your body feels better and it gets acclimatised to bowling more overs. Playing more matches helps in bowling rhythm. Shami was away from the game for 8-9 months. It’s good to see him at the international level again. He’s always been a good talent. It’s an individual decision if he should play more matches or not. It depends on a lot of things. Personally, at the highest level, I would prefer playing more and more matches as it helps me get into a rhythm.

Would you be interested in becoming a bowling coach?

I am more focused on what I’ve on my plate right now. I am looking to play the next season of IPL. But I am open to different roles. When the opportunity comes, I will think about it.

When a bowler becomes a coach of a team, how does it affect the team's bowling? Do the bowlers of that team become more confident?

Look, when you’re playing the role of a coach, your responsibilities are bigger. A good coach is a good coach. It doesn’t matter if he’s a batsman or a bowler. What counts is the experience at the international level. A coach can only prepare the player to perform to the best of his abilities. It’s up to the player to perform well.

James Anderson had recently credited you for the technique of hiding the shine of the ball...

I really appreciate that Jimmy has gone ahead and said that. I’ve never really interacted with him. He’s a great bowler. He can swing the ball and has proved himself in different conditions. I’ve also learnt from watching other bowlers. The learning process always goes on while you’re playing.

Among the current crop of fast bowlers, who has impressed you the most?

Mitchell Starc is shaping up to be a good bowler in all formats. For me, a bowler at the highest level should have the ability to pick a bunch of wickets and that really changes the course of the game.

T20 is predominantly a batsmen’s game. What advice do you have for the bowlers bowling in the death overs?

I think T20 is becoming a bowlers’ game. If you see, bowlers are becoming the game-changers. And, death overs… it depends… something that never goes wrong in death overs are good yorkers.

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